Life is Strange

Life is Strange

Bill Pakula as seen in LIFE IS STRANGE, a documentary by Isaac Hertz. Picture courtesy Lookback Productions. All rights reserved.

Life is Strange

  • Shimon Peres
  • Uri Orlev
  • Peter Loewenberg
  • Robert Aumann
  • Kurt Rothschild
  • Edith Rothschild
  • Walter Kohn
  • Rabbi Isidore Greengrass
  • Esther Zaks
  • Peter Marcuse
  • Ruth Orenstein
  • Yocheved Friedenson
  • Devorah Spira
  • Mara Vishniac Kohn
  • Aron Halpern
  • Schmuel Lipman
  • Henry Coleman
  • Rabbi Judah Treger
  • David Mikel
  • Joseph Glikman
  • Joseph Friedenson
  • Heine Hendler
  • Israel Cohen
  • Judith Rubinstein
  • Bill Pakula
Production Company:
  • Lookback Productions

* Most external filmography links go to The Internet Movie Database.

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Life is Strange (2011/2012)

Opened: 01/24/2014 Quad Cinema

Quad Cinema01/24/2014 - 01/30/20147 days

Trailer: Click for trailer

Websites: Home, Twitter, Facebook

Genre: Biographical Documentary

Rated: Unrated

There was a time when they were children too...


Anne Borin PR


Isaac Hertz's shimmering debut film, LIFE IS STRANGE, is a kaleidoscopic story of an illustrious group of survivors who look back on their vibrant Jewish family lives before the Holocaust -- including Shimon Peres (President of the State of Israel and Nobel Laureate), Uri Orlev (Hans Christian Andersen Award winner for Children's Literature), Peter Loewenberg (Professor Emeritus, UCLA), Robert Aumann (Nobel Prize, Economics), Philanthropists, Kurt and Edith Rothschild, Peter Marcuse (Professor of Urban Planning, Columbia University), Walter Cohn (Nobel Prize, Chemistry) and others. A compilation of intimate archival footage, this is an affecting meditation on those displaced as children and what remains of their childhood in old age.

Selected Quotes

"...exquisitely portrayed"
Broadway World

"Fascinating!"...a celebration of our ancestors...a celebration of generations to come.
CitySpirit Magazine

"... the film taps strong period footage."

"a wonderful documentary... memories of the rich Jewish life experienced in the Shtetl."
Rabbi Marvin Hier, Simon Wiesenthal Center

"Extremely powerful!"
Rabbi Shlomo Einhor, CongregationYeshivat Yavne, LA

"Isaac Hertz is to be congratulated "A poignant piece ....a way of life lost forever to the Nazi barbarism."
Peter Loewenberg Dean Emeritus ,UCLA

"Triumphs and joys register."
Los Angeles Times

Director's Statment

When I was 17 and struggling with school, I started taking trips on weekends to see a cousin of mine. He was a quiet man in his 80's whose curiosity and humor intrigued me. There wasn't much basis for our relationship. He was from Poland and I was from Miami. He spoke Yiddish and Hebrew. I spoke English and broken Hebrew. But we connected, and he affected me in a quiet and subtle way. We conversed about everything despite our different languages: politics, school, family. And it started to dawn on me that I may have more in common with this old man than I did with anyone else. He was more broadminded than anyone I knew. He never made judgments. He listened. We trusted each other.

I was drawn to this old man, to his ability to laugh at himself, his refusal to be serious the way other people I knew were serious, and his lively skepticism. It was a few years before I connected my attraction to him with an interest in his background. Later, getting to know my grandmother, I recognized in her a serenity that he had. I realized there was a culture that developed people like him. I would spend hours talking to my grandmother about the various members of her family and the environment she was raised in, mainly the unusual people that frequented her home. I felt as if there was a great fissure that separated us from the past.

Like a lot of grandchildren of survivors I wonder more about the communities that no longer exist than I think about the war itself. In what kind of place would I have been raised, had it not been for the war? Who would be my friends, my neighbors, my community? Was there a measure of beauty that was lost with the war? These were the kinds of questions I was thinking about when I first had the idea of conducting the interviews that became the substance of this film. When I mentioned the idea to my friends I was surprised and pleased that they immediately embraced it. They all shared the same curiosity that animates this film.

-- Isaac Hertz

About the Production

LIFE IS STRANGE started as an attempt by a couple of friends to trace their family history. Isaac Hertz and Sammy Grundwerg did not set out to make a documentary. They just wanted to learn something about their past. They both felt that despite the deluge of material that has been produced about the Holocaust, there is little available to define the Jewish culture that disappeared during the war.

The filmmakers have always found themselves attracted to survivors they met, not for the scars they carried, but for their personalities that were unlike any others they ever met. They were sure that it had to do with the pre-war culture that today is only accessible through survivors of that period. So Hertz and Grundwerg decided to start talking to survivors on camera about their youth to try and capture some of its unique qualities.

They conducted 25 interviews over the course of two years with people around the world. Some were close friends of the filmmakers and some were famous people they read about. All shared unique childhood experiences and all offered a precious connection to the past.

Aided with independent camera work, newsreels, and original home movies, the movie is a tapestry of intimate conversations and rare footage. It takes us into the heart of pre-war Yiddish culture but it also portrays the very universal experience of carefree childhood. As Uri Orlev, a children's book author and a Holocaust survivor, relates, "Children remember differently than adults do."

LIFE IS STRANGE also documents the struggle that survivors experience to retain their memory and find some connection to an intangible past. It portrays the way personal lives intersect within great historical transformations, and it connects a great political upheaval with the truths revealed only in childhood memory.

Interviews (In Order of Appearance)

Shimon Peres

President of the State of Israel, and the world's oldest de jure head of state, he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994. He is originally from Wisznievo, Belarus.

Uri Orlev

Award-winning Israeli children's author, recipient of the Hans Christian Andersen Award for children's literature, Uri has published more than 30 books, which are frequently biographical. He is originally from Warsaw, Poland.

Peter Loewenberg

Professor emeritus at the University of California Los Angeles. He teaches European cultural and intellectual history, integrating the identities of an historian and political psychologist with the clinical practice of psychoanalysis. He is a Dean and Chairman of the Education Committee and Director of the Training School, Southern California Psychoanalytic Institute. He is originally from Hamburg, Germany.

Robert Aumann

Professor at the Center for the Study of Rationality in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel. He received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics in 2005 for his work on conflict and cooperation through game-theory analysis. He is originally from Frankfurt, Germany.

Kurt & Edith Rothschild

President of Merkaz Olami--World Mizrachi, Kurt and his wife Edith are known worldwide for their philanthropy and contributions to Jewish education. Kurt is originally from Cologne, Germany, and Edith from Mannheim, Germany.

Walter Kohn

Professor of Theoretical Chemistry at the University of California Santa Barbara, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry on October 13, 1998 for his development of the density-functional theory. He has students in virtually every part of the world. He is originally from Vienna, Austria.

Rabbi Isidore Greengrass

Rabbi in New London, Connecticut where he served Congregation Beth El for over 50 years, Rabbi Greengrass was a major leader in organizing the Jewish survivors of the Holocaust in Regensburg, Germany, shortly after his liberation by the American Third Army. Rabbi Greengrass passed away on August 12, 2009, in Tampa, Florida at the age of 96. He was originally from Lomza, Poland.

Esther Zaks

Daughter of the legendary Dean of the Slobodka Talmudic Academy, Esther has spent her life furthering her father's dream of re-establishing the famed Yeshiva in Israel after its devastation during the Second World War. She is originally from Slobodka, Lithuania.

Peter Marcuse

Professor of Urban Planning at Columbia University. Peter is the son of Herbert Marcuse, the political philosopher celebrated as the "Father of the New Left." Peter is originally from Berlin, Germany.

Ruth Orenstein & Yocheved Friedenson

They are sisters who reside in New York City. Close family friends of the filmmakers, they have played important roles in the rejuvenation of Jewish life in America after the Holocaust. They are originally from Krakow, Poland.

Devorah Spira

A supervisor in the Department of Social Services of New York City for many years, and the founder of a charity organization in Brooklyn, New York. She is the daughter of a great Chasidic Rabbi, and a repository of a wealth of information about the Chasidic dynasties of Poland before the Second World War. She is originally from Krakow, Poland.

Mara Vishniac Kohn

She has spent her life teaching and working with children and adolescents, particularly those with learning or educational disabilities. Daughter of the famed photographer Roman Vishniac, Mara is fully involved in her father's estate, as well as in the current research and upcoming retrospective of Vishniac's work at the International Center of Photography in New York. She is originally from Berlin, Germany.

Aron Halpern & Schmuel Lipman

They have been close friends since their liberation from Auschwitz. They have stayed close throughout their lives, and still see each other daily in the synagogue they have founded together in Florida. They are both from Krakow, Poland.

Henry Coleman

He has been entertaining the filmmakers with stories for more than 10 years. He has been spending his winters in Florida since he closed his business in New York City. He is originally from Rypin, Poland.

Rabbi Judah Treger

Rabbi Treger is the Dean and spiritual leader of the Talmudic Academy in Wilrijk, Belgium. He is a world class Talmud scholar and son in law of the famed Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach Ztz'l. He has students all over the world. Rabbi Treger is originally from Bnei Brak, formerly in Palestine and today in Israel.

David Mikel

A successful diamond dealer, David emerged after the war as an outstanding member of his Chasidic community and is proud to say he has grandchildren that follow in the tradition of his parents. He is originally from Krakow, Poland.

Joseph Glikman

Scion of a great Chasidic family, Joseph has made his home and impact in New York City. He was very grateful for the opportunity to tell his story because he feared it would have no remembrance. He is originally from Checiny, Poland.

Joseph Friedenson

He has been publishing Dos Yiddishe Vort magazine since 1953. It is the mouthpiece for a generation of Holocaust survivors determined to regenerate ultra-Orthodoxy in the wake of the near-destruction of European Jewry. This is a continuation of his father's work as a publisher of a respected journal called Bais Yaakov before the world war. Joseph is originally from Lodz, Poland.

Heine Hendler

He spends his time writing Talmudic novellas at his home in Toronto, Canada. His books are read in the most scholarly circles. He and his brothers have been mainstays of the Toronto Jewish community since the 1950's. He is originally from Leipzig, Germany.

Israel Cohen

He has been active in the Toronto Jewish community since the 1950's. A devoted hassid of the Gerrer Rabbi, he has split his time between being a teacher, Baal Koreh who reads from the Torah scroll in the synagogue, and real estate agent. He is originally from Lodz, Poland.

Judith Rubinstein

She lives in Toronto, Canada. A proud mother of two, she has always devoted herself to her family. She is originally from Budapest, Hungary.

Bill Pakula

He was a successful businessman in Indianapolis before his retirement in Miami where he remains close with his beautiful family. He is originally from Chernivitsi, Ukraine.